Keep dreaming, ladies. While a common language for artists of both genders has yet to arrive, the 21st century feminine artist has it way over her 19th century counterpart. Heather McDonald’s intelligent, poetic script examines a woman’s role in the testosterone-dominated world of art circa 1874. She explores issues such as male chauvinism, marriage, madness and the importance of dreams.
University friends reuniting at Clovis and Victor’s French country estate hope to both rejuvenate their artistic careers and comfort Clovis, who is suffering a nervous breakdown. While the men adjourn to the dining room in order to plan their upcoming exhibit, the women are sequestered in the garden, where childhood ambitions are reawakened and secret dreams are explored. The final scene brings events full circle in a touching display of devotion.
Making the most of the Oracle Theatre’s tiny space, Margo Gray directs an excellent and articulate young cast, plumbing the depths of their collective emotional pool. Among them, Carrie Hardin is the actress to watch. Unaffected and natural, she makes a real journey out of Clovis’ emotional desperation and need to create. Hardin literally and figuratively bares all in her portrayal of a woman who is drowning in her marriage. She is, quite simply, brilliant.
This production’s strength is its script; its weakness lies in some very choppy transitions and awkward scene changes. Ms. Gray’s attempt to insert more creativity and artistry into the piece with a series of shadow puppet plays accomplishes little except to further interrupt the play’s emotional flow. Trusting in McDonald’s lyrical script, its feminist message and emotional arc, and simply allowing this talented cast to tell their story is more than enough.